A Good Person. Three simple words that spark a fundamental thought. That no matter the bad choices, there’s still a person in there. Three words that come to mind after just walking out of the theater: regret, reflection, and grief.
Starring Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman, A Good Person dissects two very different characters and their individual responses to a shared tragedy. It explores their relationships with the past, with their family, and most importantly, with themselves. Writer/Director Zach Braff brings out authentic emotions and truthful inner struggles in the storyline and amazing performances. Addiction comes in as a critical antagonist, both literally and figuratively, as we watch it block out traumatic feelings while providing a reason for these two to come together.
There’s a particularly beautiful scene with Allison (Pugh) and Daniel (Freeman) where he is sharing his model train hobby. His voice is as matter of fact as it is full of hope when he shows parts of the idealistic world he created. It’s familiar, filled with people he cares about, places he dreams about, and events that left an impression on him. It’s a reflection of his world, and allows us to consider how much this tiny town creation can mirror our own lives. It is intimately woven into the script from beginning to end, a sort of hopeful orchestration that we have the power to make everything “ok.” That we can change our perception of the past with the right amount of imagination. That we can carve out bits of happiness if we move through the pain.
Florence Pugh is breathtaking when Allison first opens up at a meeting. I don’t know how to else explain it, but it’s so her. Maybe Braff tapped into something genuine and personal or maybe she’s just an exceptional actress – maybe both. I was in full-on shaking tears watching her. Hat tip to Molly Shannon – she blended in naturally as Allison’s mother. But know Freeman steals every scene he is in, and has some surprisingly fun dialogue with his granddaughter.
The music is, as expected, terrific. Also listen for two original songs written and performed by Pugh. Some of the movie feels a bit tedious, but it’s not overly sentimental. Addiction is hard to watch. People are messy. But they can still be good.